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Donald Trump's Son-In-Law's Possible Appointment to Advisory Role; Interview with Senator Rob Portman; Interview with Congressman Seth Moulton. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired November 17, 2016 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are going to drain the swamp.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Unveiling a new lobbying ban requiring anyone under consideration for a job in the Trump administration to sign a written pledge to terminate their lobbying. And when they leave office they will be banned from being a lobbyist for five years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You talk about draining the swamp, this is one of the first steps.

SERFATY: But as they make headway on some aspects of the transition, other parts are still slow moving. Trump's team has not yet contacted the Pentagon, State Department, or other federal agencies to inform them about the transition, with major Washington agencies saying they're still left in the dark. But Trump's team says they're moving forward on this today, ready to announce their so-called landing teams made up of transition staff that will deploy and interact with the Department of Justice, State, Defense, and National Security, with other agencies to follow.

SEAN SPICER, CHIEF STRATEGIST AND COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, RNC: I think we made tremendous progress in giving the president-elect some ideas about how to move forward with his core team and potential members of his cabinet.

SERFATY: Today in Trump Tower, a flurry of meetings lined up for the president elect, including South Carolina's Governor Nikki Haley, a former Trump detractor --

GOV. NIKKI HALEY, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: That's not who we want as president.

SERFATY: Now under consideration for secretary of state. Meantime, new reports suggest that Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump's husband, could likely end up with top national security clearance and become a key adviser to Trump. Trump team's rejecting concerns over nepotism and a potential conflict of interest.

SPICER: Jared has, obviously, been a very important part of this campaign and he's someone that the president-elect trusts very much. What that role is, like anyone else, is going to be up to the president-elect.

SERFATY: The transition team continuing to dispute reports of internal disarray and infighting.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: It's false to say it's not going well.

SERFATY: This as the head of the transition, vice president-elect Mike Pence, sat down with Joe Biden Wednesday. Biden promising his successor he will be available 24/7 for advice.

JOE BIDEN, (D) VICE PRESIDENT: No administration is ready on day one. We weren't ready on day one. But I'm confident on day one everything will be in good hands.


SERFATY: And Donald Trump will be meeting with Japanese Prime Abe later today here at Trump Tower. This is notable because this is Trump's first face-to-face in-person pleating with a world leader since becoming the president-elect. John?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Sunlen Serfaty outside Trump Tower, thanks so much.

Here to discuss the transition right now and some of the policies that president-elect Trump is expected to pursue, senator from Ohio, recently reelected Republican senator for Ohio, Rob Portman. Senator Portman, thanks for being with us. Congratulations on your re- election, an election a lot of people considered sort of a model for how to run campaigns in this country, a lot of people praising that. Thanks so much for being with us.

I want to read you a tweet from Donald Trump this morning on his transition just a few minutes ago. He said "My transition team which is working long hours and doing a fantastic job will be seeing many great candidates today," and then #makeAmericagreatagain. Today Nikki Haley among others some of the people going to Trump Tower to meet with the president-elect. What are your general impressions of the transition so far?

SEN. ROB PORTMAN, (R) OHIO: Well, I think it's going fine. Look, every transition is a little chaotic. Almost by definition you go straight from a campaign and into governing. But it sounds like they've made some good choices already. And I know a lot of people who are involved with it and advising, and, you know, I think they're going to be able to pull some very good people out of the private sector, which I think is important. So it seems like it's going fine.

BERMAN: One of the people that may be pulled out of the private sector is Donald Trump's own son-in-law Jared Kushner. "The Wall Street Journal" reporting this morning he could end up with a senior advisory role in the White House. You worked in administrations. You think that's a good idea, to have a president's son-in-law working maybe in the West Wing? PORTMAN: Well, it's a good idea to have people around you that you

trust. I don't know Jared well. I've met him. But my sense is he's a very bright guy and that, more importantly, Donald Trump trusts him implicitly. And he's played a big role in the campaign. I think there's a role for him and a role for others, as well.

It's interesting, I've been doing some interviews about this over the last few days, and having worked in the first Bush and second Bush White House in different kinds of roles, it seems to me ultimately it comes back to the president. In other words, advisers will give him advice. Ultimately he's going to make his decision about how he'd like to proceed. So I think with regard to this pick or even others, he's made certain commitments in the campaign, Donald Trump has. He has reached out with his victory speech and since then to say he wants to work with both sides and try to get some things move the economy forward, for example. So I think that's perhaps more important than the individual picks he might pick for adviser.

BERMAN: But senator, these nepotism laws, there are laws in place, and you said you've worked in White Houses, two separate White Houses.

[08:05:02] What would the effect of having a family member in the White House be? If you were sitting there as a young staffer in George H. W. Bush's White House, his son-in-law walked in and said no, this is the way it's going to be, what would the effect be?

PORTMAN: Well, again, I think what would matter more is the degree of trust and confidence you have in somebody. And, you know, people have different titles in the White House, too, John. Sometimes those titles mean less than again the respect and personal relationship. And so I don't -- I don't know, you know, precisely what role they're talking about for Jared, but my sense is that he's a guy who president-elect Trump really trusts and has a lot of confidence in.

BERMAN: It does really seem like he's highly trusted by the president-elect.

If I can, just quickly on a couple of issues. Iran, you ran strongly that the Iran deal the Iran nuclear deal was a very bad deal. Just yesterday the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Corker suggested, you know what, I don't think this deal is going to be torn up right away. Do you think this is a deal that, as Donald Trump campaigned on, should be abrogated immediately?

PORTMAN: Well, I don't think it's a good agreement for our national security. I do think that it's very important we work with the other parties so there are six other countries involved. And this is something that I think is incredibly important. I saw that you noted that Prime Minister Abe's going to be meeting with Donald Trump today. I know he has said publicly that he reached out to world leaders, and I think that's really important to rebuild this sense of American leadership around the world not just in terms of rebuilding our military and the ability to project force but also rebuilding relationships which I think have been frayed over time.

One thing George W. Bush did well in my view was spend a lot of time on the phone talking with world leaders, working with them. So in this particular case with regard to the Iran agreement, it's important to reach out to our allies in Europe, it's important to reach out to the Russians and the Chinese and be sure that we're doing this together. I think that's possible. And I think we can come up with a much better approach that protects our national security more, but also protects Israel's national security better.

BERMAN: So I'll put you down for gradual approach there. You brought up George W. Bush. Another thing he did often was work with free trade. He was a proponent and his father, obviously, of NAFTA. Donald Trump not. Says he wants to renegotiate part of NAFTA. Where do you stand on that right now? You are our U.S. trade rep. Do you want to see NAFTA a thing of the past?

PORTMAN: Well, it's a 20-plus-year-old agreement. When it was negotiated there was no e-Commerce as an example, which is a significant chapter now in all of our trade agreements. It did not have the environmental or labor standards we have in all of our agreements. So it should definitely be updated. I think that's, you know, an important thing for my state of Ohio where we have a lot of trade with NAFTA countries, particularly Canada. We sent more exports to Canada than any other country. So I think updating it is an important thing, John. And my sense is that the Mexicans are open to that. And so that's one thing we could do right away.

But I do think we have to keep in mind that we could do more on trade enforcement, level the playing field, ensure that currency manipulation doesn't occur as an example, make sure companies aren't dumping product and subsidizing product. We can be tougher there and crack down on unfair imports, and we should.

But we also need to expand exports. And what these trade agreements let you do, if they're good agreements, is knock down barriers to our farmers and our workers. We send, as a country, about half of our exports to 10 percent of the world, and that's the 10 percent where we have a trade agreement, where there's overall a trade surplus with the United States we have the opportunity to do more of that with good trade agreements. And so I would be cautious about saying that we don't want to have trade agreements. We want to have them, we just make sure they're expanding our exports.

BERMAN: I asked you about Jared Kushner. Let me ask you about Steve Bannon, because his pick as chief White House is controversial. A lot of Democrats have signed on to a letter condemning this pick, asking Donald Trump to rescind it. When he ran Breitbart, Breitbart had a lot of headlines that were controversial, including many that were anti-gay. Let me just read you a few of them. "Gay rights -- it's time to get back in the closet." Kids raised by same-sex couples twice as likely to be depressed, bad adults," and on and on. Senator Portman you changed your position on same-sex marriage over the years after your son came out to you. Do you feel comfortable with someone whose organization was putting out headlines like this being so close to the president?

PORTMAN: Well, I don't -- I don't know about those headlines. What you just told me I'm certainly not comfortable with. And, by the way, I'm not comfortable with discrimination, period, nor are Americans. And I think that's something that, you know, needs to be reiterated. And I know Donald Trump feels the same way.

So again, as I said earlier, a lot of discussion about different staff members and roles they're going to play. Ultimately this goes to the top. And it goes to Donald Trump, and he will, I'm sure, continue to reiterate his view that, you know, discrimination, whether it's with regard to the gay and lesbian community, whether it's regard to ethnicity or race, is unacceptable. And I think that's -- that's the message that needs to be sent loud and clear.

BERMAN: Senator Rob Portman of Ohio. Again congratulations on your re-election. Thanks for being with us.

PORTMAN: Thanks, John. Thanks for having me on again.

BERMAN: Alisyn?

[08:10:07] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Retired Army General Michael Flynn is one of the top contenders to become Donald Trump's national security adviser. So who is he? And could some controversies prove problematic for him? That's next.


BERMAN: He already has Donald Trump's ear. Now retired Army General Michael Flynn appears to be on a very short list to become the president-elect's national security adviser. General Flynn, no stranger to controversy. He has a reputation for having a fiery temperament, much like his potential new boss. Want to bring in CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. I've covered General Flynn for a number of years as he served in various military positions, and now we've talked to a number of people who know him very well. They all say that fiery personality could be a deciding factor for anyone who wants to go work for him.


GEN. MICHAEL FLYNN: I have called on Hillary Clinton to drop out of the race because she, she put our nation's security at extremely high risk.

STARR: Retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn now considered a leading candidate to become Donald Trump's national security adviser. Flynn harshly criticized Hillary Clinton's handling of sensitive information during the campaign.

FLYNN: This over-classification excuse is not an excuse. If it's classified, it's classified.

[08:15:02] STARR: But Flynn's own record with classified information has been called into question during his military career. On at least two occasions, he's handling of classified information came under scrutiny by the U.S. military. Two former government officials with direct knowledge of the issue tells CNN during the time Flynn oversaw intelligence in Afghanistan, he shared classified information with Pakistan on terror networks responsible for killing American troops. Intelligence, the sources say, came from another agency. Flynn wasn't supposed to share it. They say he was trying to convince Pakistan to stop sheltering terrorists.

Asked by email about the allegation, Flynn told it is not true. Not even close. Flynn declined to comment further for this story.

In a separate incident, the two officials CNN spoke with said Flynn did not follow established security procedures when he shared classified intelligence with allies. Flynn has acknowledged that one, telling "The Washington Post", "The investigation on me was for sharing intelligence with the Brits and Australians in combat and I'm proud of that one. That was substantiated because I actually did it."

Flynn said he had permission to share the classified information. In both cases, sources say the retired general was informally reprimand at the time but never charged with wrongdoing.

And new 2010, while still serving as a senior officer, he published an article criticizing the state of U.S. intelligence operations in Afghanistan. CNN has learned the CIA was so furious at Flynn for publicly disclosing shortfalls, it complained to the Pentagon which had signed off on the article.

Flynn joins tremendous access and credibility with Donald Trump.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURTY ANALYST: What makes General Flynn different from so many others we've heard about on Donald Trump's transition team is he's the one with the real experience fighting on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq.


STARR: And in 2014, General Flynn was pushed out as the head of the Defense Department's Defense Intelligence Agency. Flynn has talked about that. He believes he was pushed out because of his very strong views on Islamic terrorism. Others I have spoken to say he was pushed out because of his contentious management style -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Barbara, thanks so much for all of that background.

So here with more on national security issues and General Flynn's potential role is Democratic congressman from Massachusetts and Iraq war veteran, Congressman Seth Moulton.

Nice to see you, congressman.


CAMEROTA: What do you think of General Flynn possibly being national security adviser? MOULTON: Well, you know, General Flynn testified before our committee

several times, and I would say that his views were pretty extreme among all those who testified before us.

CAMEROTA: Such as? I mean, what were some of the things that stood out to you?

MOULTON: Well, for example, he was so focused on just the terminology around Islamic terrorism, without real regard, I think, for how ISIS was actually recruiting people around the world. You've heard people like General Petraeus talk about how language matters, and how a lot of the things that we say back here in America are used by the terrorists to recruit people to fight against us.

And so, a lot of times, it seemed like he was more interested in the political point than in really our national security policy. But that said, he has a long history of service in our United States military, and should be respected for that. And obviously he has views that should be heard.

CAMEROTA: What about the claims that Barbara Starr laid out there in her reporting, that he, himself, may have had a history of mishandling classified information?

MOULTON: Well, obviously that's concerning. But we need to know the details. Because, there are a lot of accusations flying around about the mishandling of classified materials in this election. Not all of which bear out to be true.

We have to understand whether there was real intent to mishandle classified materials. Or -- or if, in fact, it was well-substantiated and he wasn't charged. So, clearly, we need to know more about this situation. But I think one thing that we should have learned from the last election, and the accusations against Secretary Clinton, is that we should not jump to conclusions.

CAMEROTA: So, from what you know of General Flynn, would you be comfortable with him having any position -- I mean obviously he seems to be a favorite of Donald Trump. It seems as though he's going to be name to something. He's long been a supporter of Donald Trump throughout the campaign.

Are you comfortable with him having any position?

MOULTON: Well, let me put it this way. His military judgment aside, I think that his personal judgment to support Donald Trump for president is questionable. You saw how many Republican national security experts, and retired military officers came out against Donald Trump during this campaign.

[08:20:02] I mean, that's unprecedented. We've never seen so many Republicans come out against their nominee as we did in this last election, and it was solely on the grounds of national security. I personally have grave concerns with the dangerous agenda that Donald Trump has put forth, and he clearly has no clue about national security himself. I mean, this is a guy who's been around praising Saddam Hussein, who said that Putin wouldn't invade Ukraine long after he did.


MOULTON: So, the fact that General Flynn supports Donald Trump for president raises a lot of questions in mind. Now, his military judgment is -- is often --


MOULTON: -- you know I think on one extreme of the spectrum. But that doesn't mean we should discredit his service.


MOULTON: But I do seriously question anyone in his position who thinks that this man would be a good commander in chief.

CAMEROTA: OK. Let's talk about something else you're questioning, and that is Democrats' judgment, and Democrats' way forward. You this week have written a letter about the way forward. I'll just read a little excerpt of it you, you and some of your colleagues have written.

"It is vital that our caucus take the time to listen to the American people and learn the lessons of this difficult election in order to put our caucus in the best position to fight the potentially dangerous agenda of President-elect Donald Trump and have a realistic chance of taking back the House in 2018."

Are you saying -- I mean, basically you I think were suggesting going slow in terms of leadership positions. Have you lost confidence in Nancy Pelosi?

MOULTON: No. But what I am saying is that we need to have a serious discussion within our party because the last few elections have been horrific. I mean the last three or four elections in the House have been terrible. We lost the White House, the Senate. In addition to the House of Representatives, we only have 16 governorships across the country and we don't have a majority of the state legislature.

So, the American people have sent a clear message to us Democrats that the status quo is not acceptable. So, rather than just rush into elections for leadership positions, and essentially just maintain the status quo, let's take the time to just have a conversation. We have an incredibly diverse caucus. We need to hear --


MOULTON: -- those views and we need to listen to the American people.

CAMEROTA: But should Nancy Pelosi in your opinion remain as a leader?

MOULTON: Nancy Pelosi has done extraordinary things for our party. I mean, let's not forget we're talking about the first woman to become speaker of the House. We're talking about someone who shepherded Obamacare through a very contentious Congress. But we clearly need to have a plan for the future. And what I'm saying is that we ought to have several different competing views and law out a plan for the future the best strategy to carry our caucus and our party forward. If Nancy Pelosi has the best strategy then we should vote for her. But let's hear some competing views.

You know, I got here through a competitive primary.


MOULTON: Through that process, I listened and learned from the constituents I would come to represent. We've got to have time for that conversation.

CAMEROTA: If not Nancy Pelosi, who?

MOULTON: Well, no one else has announced that they're running yet. So, we don't know that other leader might be, but we do have an incredibly diverse caucus and we have a lot of potential leaders. But a lot of people I think in our caucus right now just feel like they don't have much of a voice.

So, part of the discussion should be not just who our leader is but what is the agenda and how do we empower minorities, young people, in our caucus that are such an important part of the Democratic Party, but don't always have such a large voice in what we're saying today.

CAMEROTA: Yes. You have a lot of thinking to do, it sounds like. Congressman Moulton, thanks so much for being on NEW DAY.

MOULTON: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Let's get over to John.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks, Alisyn.

Hate crimes on the rise. So, how is the political climate influencing people's actions? We'll discuss that next.



[08:27:43] PROTESTERS: We reject, the president-elect!

KIDS: Build a wall! Build a wall!


CAMEROTA: Ever since Donald Trump's election victory, we've seen many reports of violence and harassment between Trump opponents and supporters, and an uptick in racist and bigoted language, as well as some of these assaults. That you're seeing.

The Southern Poverty Law Center reports more than 400 incidents of harassment and intimidation since Election Day. Such as this, a black military veteran was denied a free meal

promotion at Chili's restaurant in Dallas on Veterans Day. He says a man in a Trump t-shirt accused him of like about his service. Chili's manager took the Trump supporter's side. Chili's has apologized for that incident.

And in Indiana, Heil Trump, a swastika and an anti-gay slur spray painted on St. David Episcopal Church. President-elect Donald Trump says he is saddened by the reports of harassment.


TRUMP: Stop it. If it -- if it helps, I will say this, and I'll say it right to the cameras -- stop it.


CAMEROTA: Joining us now to talk about this is Reverend Kelsey Hutto of Saint David's Episcopal Church in Indiana, whose church was vandalized. Also is Aymann Ismael, he is a journalist for "Slate" magazine.

Nice to see both of you this morning.

Reverend, tell us what happened on Sunday at your church.

REV. KELSEY HUTTON, SAINT DAVID'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH: First, thank you for having me with you.

Sunday morning, I was alerted by my organist that our church had been vandalized. When I arrived, like you said, there was a Heil Trump, a swastika and an anti-gay slur painted on the side of Saint David's. At first, I was pretty disheartened at seeing a scene in our community. And we were very saddened to see it.

But a second thought I was excited in some ways, which sounds weird, I know, because we were targeted for the right reason. And our presiding bishop-elect Michael Curry (ph) says sometimes that doing the right thing is not always the popular thing. And if that's why we were target, we're okay with that.

CAMEROTA: So, Reverend, what's your plan? I know there was some talk of leaving it up, letting this conversation play out, not turning your eyes away from something that's so painful and ugly.